~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Wake up." Johnny banged on the three hotel room doors beside each other, waking the sleeping Nsyncers. "Justin! Joey! Jace! Let's go."

"Whaaaat?" Justin asked as he cracked his door open.

"Get up, come to my room right now." Johnny knocked on JC and Joey's rooms again.

"What happened?" Justin stumbled into the hall as his door swung shut behind him. "Dammit." He looked back at the closed door. "I'm locked out."

"I've got a spare." Johnny knocked on the other two doors again as Joey pulled his open.

"What the fuck?" Joey demanded as he rubbed his eyes.

"My room, right now."

"What's he sqwakin' about?" Joey asked Justin.

"I don't know." Justin yawned and scratched his stomach.

"Where's Chris?"

"He's at the hospital." Johnny banged on JC's door with his fist. "Today JC, let's go."

"He's what?" Joey's eyes sprung open at the mention of Chris being in the hospital.

"Go to my room and we'll talk about it." Johnny said gruffly as JC opened his door.

"What?" JC grumbled in his half asleep scratchy voice.

"Come on gorgeous." Johnny had to smile at JC's wild hair. "My room, pronto."

"Now?"

"Right now." Johnny nodded and added, "Grab your room key."

"Got it." JC nodded and shook the little plastic card key in his hand. The four men went to Johnny's room and shut the door.

"What's this about?" Joey asked.

"Let's wait for Lance and Chris." JC shook his head.

"They're at the hospital." Johnny shook his head. That got their undivided attention.

"What happened?" JC bolted upright in his seat.

"We left after the show tonight to get Lance's toes checked out and he's fine in that respect."

"You woke us up at fuckin three in the morning to tell us that his toes aren't broken?" Justin grumbled.

"He's being prepped right now for heart surgery." Johnny said softly.

"What happened?" JC asked as his blood rushed to his toes. "Is he okay?"

"He's been on the waiting list since his attack on stage back in May and tonight - "

"Waiting list? For surgery?" Justin asked. "Couldn't they just do it then?"

"Wait… wait hold on. Wait." JC held up his hand and shook his head. "Time out, you mean a transplant?" His breath came in short bursts as he realized that was what it had to be.

"Yes."

"He what?" Joey asked as his jaw hit the floor.

"He's been on the waiting list and by some strange miracle he was matched up with someone who happened to be in the same hospital."

"No way… that doesn't happen." JC insisted.

"It happened tonight." Johnny put his hand on JC's arm to try to calm him down. "He's being prepped for surgery and his mom is on her way right now… but he wants you guys to come to the hospital."

"Why?" Justin asked as his voice shook with fear.

"He wants to say goodbye." JC whispered as his hands began to shake.

"He wants to let you guys know he's okay and to just touch base." Johnny said quickly. "As soon as you guys can get dressed we're going to head over."

"So he's… they're going to give him a new heart?" Justin asked softly.

"A healthy one." Johnny nodded.

"But he could… I mean, this is dangerous." Justin looked nervously from JC to Joey then back to Johnny.

"Yes, this can be." Johnny nodded. "But the surgeon that will be doing the operation is a specialist in heart transplants. He's from Johns Hopkins heart center, which is one of the top transplant centers in the world. Lance is in the best hands."

"Yeah but even the best guys make mistakes." Joey grumbled.

"We're going to think positive." Johnny glanced at Joey. "Now go get dressed so we can head over."

"What about the tour?" JC asked, hating to be the one that brought it up.

"We're canceling what's left, and the winter leg."

"Completely?"

"Lance will be out of service for at least a couple months, and after that we don't know what he'll be able to do. Right now it's cancelled indefinitely." Johnny paused for a second, "Now go get dressed and meet me by the elevators in thirty minutes. Is that enough time?"

"Can we leave now?" Justin asked quickly.

"You need to get cleaned up and dressed. It's going to be a long day."

"Are our calls and stuff tomorrow canceled?" JC asked.

"Yes. Your schedules have been wiped for the next week, you've got clean slates." Johnny nodded. "I'll need a couple of you to make statements and things like that, but anything pre-planned as of a couple hours ago, has been canceled."

"Okay." JC stood up and headed for the door. "Thirty minutes?" He asked without turning around.

"At the elevators." Johnny cleared his throat as the others stood up and followed JC out of the room.

A half hour later they were all met at the elevators by their security team and Johnny. They exchanged nervous glances as they rode the elevator down to the lobby and made a beeline for the vans parked outside. The small handful of fans outside at that hour looked stunned to see three of the five Nsync boys run out of the hotel and they didn’t have time to respond before the van doors were shut and they were on their way.

When they pulled up at the hospital Johnny directed them to the waiting room on Lance's floor then stood off to the side as JC, Joey and Justin rushed into the hospital with four guards in tow.

"Hey." JC nodded at Chris as he rushed into the waiting room.

"Hey." Chris looked up slowly with tired eyes. He carelessly ran his fingers through his hair and tried not to yawn, "You okay?"

"Yeah, yeah we're fine. Where's Lance?"

"They've taken him upstairs to get x-rays I think." Chris shrugged and nodded at the other two who entered behind JC. "They said he'd be back down here around seven."

"Shit." JC looked at his watch and jiggled his wrist slightly, "That's like, three more hours."

"Yeah." Chris sighed and leaned back in the chair.

"Have you seen him?" Justin asked as he leaned on the wall while he kept his eye on the empty hall. "I mean, is he okay?"

"Yeah, I hung out with him all night until a little while ago. He called his mom and she's on her way out." Chris yawned loudly and shook his head to clear his head. "He's doing alright."

"Is he conscious?" Joey asked.

"Last time I saw him, yeah. He's tired but man, we've been up all night." Chris shrugged. "He said he wanted to see everyone before he went in."

"When's his surgery?"

"Eleven I think. That's what the doctor guy said anyway, if things go alright with the tests and everything."

"So we can't see him until seven?" Justin asked.

"I guess." Chris leaned his head back against the wall. "Did Johnny come with you?" Chris skimmed the room as Justin and Joey sat side by side.

"Yeah." JC nodded.

"Okay." Chris yawned again as his vision blurred.

Justin, Joey and JC were pumped with adrenaline and bounced nervously in their seats as Chris let his eyes close gently and clasped his mouth shut. Johnny showed up a short time later and filled the boys in on the tests that Lance was going through. "When he gets back down here they're going to draw some more blood and re-do his meds then you'll be able to see him."

"We can go in and see him?" Justin asked.

"You'll have to wear sterile coverings, gloves and face masks, but yeah." Johnny nodded.

"What for?"

"Because if Lance gets sick at all right now, it could jeopardize his surgery. We don't want to do that."

"No, no of course not." JC shook his head slowly as he propped his feet on the chair across from him. They made themselves as comfortable as they could while their stomachs plummeted every time they thought about Lance.

Just after seven in the morning, a nurse poked her head into the waiting room where half of the people were asleep, "James Bass? Are any of you here for him?" She asked in a soft voice.

"Yeah." JC rubbed his eyes and sat up while the others shifted uncomfortably in their seats. "We uh…" He looked around the small room, "We all are."

"He's back in his room now and he asked me to come here and send 'the guys' in… I'm assuming you're 'the guys'?"

"That's us." Justin smiled and arched his back before he stood up.

"Can I see him?" JC started for the door, asserting himself first to ensure that he got to see Lance.

"Certainly."

"Can I?" Justin asked as he began to follow JC.

"Only one at a time right now, and you'll have to keep it short." She pursed her lips. "Mr. Bass is tired right now, and he still has some courses he needs to go through before the surgery today."

"Okay." JC looked back at Justin; "I'll be back in a little bit." He kept a step behind the nurse as they went to the nurse's station and she helped him into his sterile coverings.

She gently tied the mask behind his head and smiled, "He's hooked up to a lot of machines right now, just so you'll know what to expect."

"Okay." JC tried to prepare himself. "Is he… uh, you know, is he here?"

"Yes, like I said he's tired, but he's not on any kind of medication that will make him groggy or anything like that. He's as lucid as any other time he's running on next to no sleep." She smiled and nodded toward Lance's door a few feet away.

"Can I touch him? I mean…" JC blushed. "I don't mean like, touch him… just, you know." He sighed. "You know."

"Yes, that's why you've got gloves on." She tried not to laugh and added, "Just keep your hands away from his connections, where the monitors and IV's connect to his body."

"O-okay." JC nodded and blushed over the rim of the facemask. "Thanks." He nodded and carefully stepped into Lance's room.

Lance turned his head toward the door as JC's shoes squeaked on the shiny linoleum flooring. "Hey." His mouth turned up in a half smile at the sight of his friend.

"Hey man." JC said as he walked into the room looking like a train hit him. "What's up with this?" He forced a smile as he looked around at all the machines surrounding Lance's bed.

"I'm the bionic man. Half man, half machine." Lance smiled as his eyes drooped closed for a long blink. "Nice thing." He nodded at JC's mask.

"Yeah, they're making us wear these in order to come in here. We don't need you catching some bug or whatever." JC shrugged as the sterile covering slipped off his shoulder. "I feel like a doctor in these man, let me take your temperature or something."

"Back off." Lance laughed, "So what am I missing out there?"

"Nothing." JC shook his head. "Justin and Joey are doing rock paper scissors to see who gets to come next… Joey's winning."

"Of course." The two boys said in unison.

"And Johnny's got his phone glued to his ear outside, he's basically freezing his ass off because he can't use his cell inside the hospital." JC laughed, then sniffed quickly. "He's bending steel out there with the press and stuff."

"We're canceling the tour aren't we?" Lance's forced smile fell.

JC kept his eyes off Lance as he looked toward the window with a deep sigh, "Yeah man, of course we are."

"You guys could do it without me you know." Lance shook his head.

"Fuck you." JC looked directly at Lance. "We couldn't and you know it."

"You could easily do concerts without me on stage, you've got the backing tracks and - "

"Shut up Lance, we're not going on without you." JC said quickly.

"The fans are gonna be pissed."

"So?" JC immediately sounded defensive. Right then the millions of fans worldwide didn't mean a thing to him.

"So that's not a wise business move."

"They'll understand when we tell them." JC said softly. He unwillingly glanced at the clock above Lance's head and sighed, "I'm only allowed like five minutes, so I've gotta go."

"Okay."

"You're going to be okay Lance." JC tried to sound sure of himself, when inside he was falling apart.

"Yeah, I'll be good as new."

"You'll be better than that." JC's eyes smiled behind the mask as tears appeared on his lashes. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"

"Okay." Lance nodded and reached his hand out to JC.

JC took his hand and squeezed Lance's through the latex of his glove as he prayed silently that he'd get the chance to do that again. "I love you man."

"I love you too." Lance smiled. "Don’t worry about me JC… I'll be cool."

"I know you will." JC nodded and reluctantly let go of Lance's hand.

"Go send Joey in before I fall asleep here." Lance nodded toward the door.

"You got it." JC wiped at his eyes quickly then turned for the door. He tore his gown and gloves off as he walked down the hall, and placed them in the soiled linen container by the door.

Joey took his turn visiting Lance and basically treated it like any other day. Joey thanked Lance for getting him out of a half dozen early morning calls and for the few months vacation they were all promised.

"It's my pleasure." Lance smiled. "What are you gonna do with your time off?"

"Worry about you." Joey shrugged with a smile.

"In between trips to Cancun and Grand Cayman?"

"Yeah." Joey laughed. "Seriously though, we'll all be together I think."

"Yeah right. Any time we get any kind of time off we split up like wild rabbits."

"Yeah but this is different." Joey shrugged. "I'll tell you what, when you get done with this we'll make plans and we'll go to Cancun together, how's that?"

"Yeah?"

"Heck yeah. I know some Mexican."

"Spanish." Lance smiled, glad that Joey was more or less normal.

"Yeah, I know some Spanish. We'll take off and spend a few weeks down there when you get outta here."

"I'm gonna be out of commission for a while."

"Great, then when you're back in commission, we'll go." Joey shrugged and looked at the clock above Lance's bed. "I guess I should let the little brat come back here now."

"Okay." Lance nodded. "Hey, did Chris go back to the hotel?"

"Nah, he's asleep in the waiting room."

"He's asleep?"

"Curled up in one of those plastic chairs… don't ask me how man. I can't even sit in it." Joey laughed nervously.

"Ouch." Lance winced and tried to smile.

"Why? Do you want me to go get him?" Joey looked toward the door.

"No… it's just…" Lance paused and frowned, "He's not freaking out like he should be. I mean, you know Chris, he hyperventilates any time there's a panic and he's being really cool right now."

"Yeah well." Joey shrugged and looked uncomfortable, truth was… right then no one was acting like they normally would. "Maybe he's keeping it together for show. Who knows?"

"Well if he wakes up any time soon, can you tell him I said thanks for hanging out last night?" Lance asked softly as he coughed into his shoulder.

"Sure." Joey shuffled his feet; "Did he already come in? Or is he after Justin?"

"No… I talked to him already." Lance shook his head. "Is my mom here yet?"

"Not yet." Joey frowned. "Johnny said she should be here around eight thirty. That's another half hour away or something."

"'Okay."

"So I'll see ya later."

"See ya Joe." Lance nodded, as Joey seemed reluctant to leave. "What?"

Joey shook his head as he realized he was staring at Lance, "Nothing." He sighed and turned for the door. "I'll see you tomorrow kid."

"Bye Joe."

"Bye." Joey said softly as he pulled the door open and stepped out into the hall. He took a couple deep breaths before going back to the waiting room to send Justin down to see Lance. "Your turn." Joey said softly as he leaned against the wall. Justin and Johnny were the only conscious people left in the room and they both looked exhausted. Chris made no sound at all as his head rested against the back of the blue plastic chair, seemingly oblivious to everything that was going on around his sleeping body.

"How's he look?"

"Tired." Joey nodded.

"Should I just let him sleep?" Justin asked without looking up.

"Nah, go say hi or whatever." Joey shrugged. "Where's Jace?"

"He went to get some food I think." Justin stood up and stretched his arms out in front of him. "Where do I go?"

"Go on down there to the nurses desk, she'll hook you up with one of those little cover things and some gloves then take you to his room." Joey pointed at the lighted nurse's station.

"Okay." Justin took a deep breath and psyched himself up for the trip down the hall. He let the nurse help him into a sterile covering shirt that tied in the back, gloves and a face mask before they went to his room. "Hey." Justin forced a smile behind the mask as he walked in.

"Pullin' up the rear huh?" Lance tried to joke but found he was too tired. He'd been up for more than 24 hours without much more than a few cat naps here and there.

"Yeah well… Joey's a punk, he had to go before me." Justin shrugged and nervously stood by the wall.

"You okay?" Lance asked after a minute of silence.

"Yeah."

"Liar."

"How come you didn't tell us?" Justin asked as he tugged at the end of his latex-gloved fingers.

Lance had been waiting for that question, and he was surprised that Justin was the first to ask. "I didn't want you guys to freak out."

"Tsk - " Justin sighed and rolled his eyes.

"No, come on now. You know you would have. You all would have wanted to stop the tour or completely change the dances and you would have been walking on eggshells around me. All I wanted was to be normal… Which was hard enough with all the trips home I had to make for my doctors and stuff."

"You went home?" Justin frowned and looked up at Lance.

"Every month." Lance nodded. "Those two day excursions I'd take weren't always for Freelance."

Justin nodded solemly, he should have caught on. "But what if all of the dancing and stuff made it worse?"

"No one knew if it would. All the dancing in the world didn't bring me in here last night though. I didn't get any worse or anything like that. They happened to have a donor in this hospital when I came in for my toe."

"Yeah but… I mean… I don't know. I just think you should have told us." Justin shrugged.

"What would you have done if I had?" Lance asked.

"I don't know."

"Maybe I should have told you or whatever… but I didn't want to. It was bad enough we had to change everything around when I had my attack, if you all knew I had to have a transplant that would have been that and I didn't want that."

"We changed the dances so it wouldn't be as hard on you. We wanted to do that Lance; it wasn't like we felt like we had to or anything. We wanted to make it easier."

"I know Just, that's not what I meant." Lance shook his head. "I just didn't want everyone whispering about me behind my back, 'oh hey there's Lance, he's sick, he needs a new heart'… you know what I mean?"

"Did Johnny know?"

"Yeah, he had to in case anything happened." Lance nodded. Justin bit his lip behind his mask, as he frowned, "I didn't keep it from you guys to be mean, I just wanted things to be normal."

Justin sighed and reached up to run his hand over his head, "Well it's not normal now."

"Nope." Lance shook is head. "I can't change that though… if I could you know I would."

"I know." Justin nodded. "So uh… are you going to be in Mississippi after this?"

"Not if I have a say." Lance laughed lightly. "I'll be here in the hospital for a while, but then I'd like to go home to Florida."

"But won't you need someone there to help you or whatever?"

"My mom can come and stay with me for a while. I don't know how long this is gonna take." Lance shrugged. "But my doctor is there and…"

"Your doctor? Dr. Suess?" Justin smiled and his eyes crinkled above the mask.

"Yeah." Lance laughed and tried not to yawn.

"My time's up." Justin said quickly.

A shadow fell over Lance's face as he nodded, "Yeah, is uh… was my mom out there?"

"Not when I came back." Justin shook his head and stepped away from the wall. "I'm sure that she'll come back as soon as she gets here."

"Yeah." Lance nodded and tried not to look up at the clock. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you."

"It's okay."

"I'll see you tomorrow though, okay?"

"Yeah." Justin nodded and cleared his throat. "Hey uh… how do you feel about this?"

"Scared." Lance said softly as he dropped his eyes to the floor. "But uh, but I feel good about it. My options are slim and this is the best thing."

"You think so?"

"Yeah, I do."

"Okay." Justin seemed reluctant to leave. "As long as you're cool with it."

"I'm cool." Lance smiled. "I'll see you later Just."

"Later." Justin forced a smile and headed for the door. He stopped with his hand on the handle and turned around, "I love you man, you're the coolest band brother I could ever hope for."

"Yeah? Can I tell JC you said so?" Lance laughed lightly. "I love you too kid. Now get out of here so I can catch some sleep."

"See ya."

"See ya." Lance lifted his hand in a half wave as Justin ducked out the door only moments before the tears in his eyes overflowed.

Justin shed the coverings and mask, then walked quickly to the waiting room where JC and Chris were sitting with Johnny. "Man…" Justin sighed heavily and dropped into one of the chairs. "Where's Joe?"

"He went down to help Diane. She came here straight from the airport so all of her luggage was in the taxi, he's moving it to our vans." JC explained.

"She's here?" Justin asked.

JC stared at him for a second, "Yeah… Joey's helping her move her stuff. That's what I just said, pay attention."

"How long does the surgery take?" Justin ignored JC's biting remark as he turned to Johnny.

"I don't know exactly. We won't be able to see him until at least tomorrow though."

"Will he be here?"

"He'll be here in the Cardiac Care center for a couple days, then I think they'll move him to a private room." Johnny repeated the information from memory, knowing he'd tell the boys again another two or three times just to ease their minds.

"So what now?" Justin asked softly.

"Now we wait." Johnny crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the wall as he looked at his boys spread out around the room. This was not how it was supposed to be. They should be goofing around and getting in trouble over a catered breakfast, annoying an innocent reporter to no end and behaving like children at the mention of the new X-Box game that they were supposed to demo that week.

They were not supposed to be one short and waiting in a hospital for the fifth.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Lance?" His mom asked cautiously as she swept into the room. "Are you up?"

"Hey mom." He opened his eyes and smiled as she came up to the bed. "I'm sorry about all this."

"Oh sweetie, don't be sorry. This isn't your fault."

"You're supposed to be heading to Vegas."

"Angel, Vegas can wait." She shook her head as her lower lip began to tremble. "How do you feel?" She was glad for the facemask; she didn't want Lance to see how scared she really was.

"Tired."

"Have you slept at all?"

"Not really." Lance shook his head and tried not to yawn. "I've been up since like, six yesterday morning."

"You need to rest babe."

"I'll be able to rest a lot after the surgery." Lance tried to keep it light while inside he was growing more and more scared. He shuddered involuntarily as his teeth chattered with apprehension.

As hard as he tried to hide it, Diane knew him better than that. She could sense his fear and in the quiet moments that followed she tried to think of something to say that would calm him down a little, "This really is a miracle Lance. God put you in this hospital last night for a reason, he wouldn't bring you this far for nothing babe, we've got to believe he's got big plans for you."

"But what about…" The question showed on his face.

"Angel, God's looking out for everyone involved. The donor and their family are being looked after by him and he'll be guiding the surgeons hand as they give you the healthy heart."

"I know." Lance whispered and tried to keep his voice from trembling. "But why me? I've only been waiting a couple months, what about those people who have been waiting for years? Mom, that's not fair."

"I know…" She whispered as she sat beside his bed and held his hand. "You can't dwell on that babe. There's a reason you're here."

"Yeah but I feel like I don't deserve it almost. I mean… it's hard mom. I want it, I really do. I'm grateful that I… that they've found a donor, but… but no one ever told me it would feel like this. I feel guilty."

"Don't Lance, don't feel guilty. You didn't bring any of this on yourself, you didn't have a say in any of this at all." She shook her head and squeezed his hand. "This is scary honey, I know that. But you're going to be just fine."

Lance looked away from his mother as he nodded slightly, he had to believe that he would. "I just wish this was already over with so I wouldn't have to feel like this any more." He whispered.

"It will all be over soon. Tomorrow you'll be a whole new person."

"No, I'll still be me." Lance licked his lips and closed his eyes tightly, squeezing tears from the corners. "Getting a new heart doesn't mean I'll change who I am. I'll still care about the same things, I'll still feel the same about… about everyone." He sounded like he was trying to convince himself.

"Of course you will." Diane willed her tears back and took a deep breath. "You'll be you babe, but with a whole new lease on life. That's all I meant, you'll be a better you."

"I just want this to be done…" Lance sniffed and blinked his eyes rapidly. "I just want to go home."

"You'll be home soon." Diane raised his bare hand to her masked mouth and pressed her lips against his fingers.

She stayed with Lance for another hour before the doctors came in and began getting him ready for surgery. He handed her his ring, necklace and anything else he had on that was removable as his hands began to shake, "Time to scrub and shave?" Lance asked as he managed a small smile.

"You got it." The nurse laughed lightly as she removed the IV's that were put in earlier to administer the immunosuppressive medications that he needed to prepare for the transplant.

"Then what?" He gave her a worried look.

"Weren't you covered on this?"

"Yes, but I…" He shrugged, he just wanted to hear it again.

"Okay." She smiled sweetly and put the IV aside to lean on his bed. "You're going to go down the hall and scrub yourself from top to bottom, then shave from your knees to your chin. Then you'll be able to lay on the operating table where one of the nurses will paint you up real good with the funky bright orange antibiotic solution called betadine that may sting on the areas you just shaved. We'll start a fresh round of IV's and your favorite, a Swan-Ganz catheter in your neck." She paused as he nodded slightly, "You mom will be taken to the Cardiac Surgery waiting room where she can hang out until the surgery is completed. Once you get settled in the operating room I'll be there to cover you with a blanket because it's kind of chilly and then we'll get started."

Lance licked his lips and nodded briefly, "So from right now until I go to sleep, about how long?"

"An hour." The nurse shrugged, "Give or take."

"Okay." Lance nodded as another nurse helped him sit up. "And I can't see my mom after this, right?"

"When you wake up from surgery you'll be able to see her."

"Right when I wake up?"

"Well no, as soon as you wake up the Cardiac Care nurses will check you out and arrange to have your vent removed. Once that is removed your mom can come back to visit for a few minutes, but you will be in isolation."

"Okay." Lance nodded. He knew all of this, but it was reassuring to hear it again.

"Do you want me to keep going?" The nurse asked softly.

"Yeah… then what?"

"You'll be in isolation for a couple of days until your chest tubes are taken out. You might have a nasogastric tube going up your nose and into your stomach, which will also be removed when the vent comes out. You'll have a Foley catheter going into your bladder that you'll get to keep for a couple extra days, lucky you. But just remember the tubes and machines won't last long. It will be at about 24 hours before most of them are removed, at which time you'll be moved to a private room where you can actually have visitors." She smiled, "How's that?

"Good." Lance nodded. "Thanks."

"No problem, do you have any questions?"

"No." Lance's teeth chattered uncontrollably.

"Okay." The nurse smiled and tilted her head as she stood up, "You're going to be alright kiddo. We'll take good care of you here."

"Thanks." Lance managed a smile then turned to his mom, "Do you uh… you don't have to wait here."

"No, I know you're probably not coming back here."

"Probably not." Lance shook his head. "I uh…"

"I'm going to go on down to the waiting room angel, I'll be here as soon as you get out." Diane's eyes smiled at Lance over the yellow facemask.

"Okay." Lance's voice shook as his body shivered with nerves.

"I love you." She reached to touch his hair with her gloved hand, then let it trail down his cheek as her heart broke in two. "Nothing should ever be this hard." She thought to herself as she bent to kiss him, wishing she could remove the mask to feel her lips on her son's cheek before he went to surgery.

"I love you too mom, I'll see you soon."

"Yes." Diane nodded as a tear escaped. She wiped it away quickly as she stood up, "I'll see you soon." She slid between two nurses and out the door as the doctor at Lance's side began to talk loudly.

Diane walked into the waiting room with her head lowered; this was going to be the single most trying day in her life. She looked up as she took a deep breath and saw that the four other boys were anxiously waiting for her return.

Seeing them join together like this for Lance finally hit home as she met each of their glances individually. Without a word JC stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Diane's shoulder to hold her close. The closeness they each felt for Lance doubled as Justin joined the hug followed by Chris and Joey.

"He's going to be okay guys." Diane said from the center of the huddle. "You know Lance, he'll be back to work in no time."

The guys didn't say anything; they just nodded and bowed their heads as their tears of fear escaped to mix with Diane's strength and assurance. They stood locked in a group embrace for a minute before one by one they stepped back and wiped their eyes, "Whew…" Chris smiled and ran the back of his hand over his eyes.

"I needed that, thank you." Diane nodded and took her seat by the door.

"You're welcome." They mumbled in response, knowing that they all needed it just as much as she did.

Throughout the day they each took turns running to the cafeteria for drinks or snacks and taking laps around the parking lot to keep from getting stiff sitting in the waiting room chairs. Eventually they all dozed, jerked awake suddenly by a noise in the hall or the cough of a neighbor. It was almost dark when the surgeon tapped on the waiting room door, "Are you all here for James Bass?"

"Lance." Diane nodded and stood up as her pulse quickened.

"Hi, I'm Dr. Porter, how are you?"

She nodded quickly and crossed her arms over her chest; "I'm okay."

"Are you Lance's mother?"

"Yes." She licked her lips and wished he'd just tell her.

"He did wonderful, the surgery went very well." Dr. Porter smiled and reached to pat her shoulder. "He's one strong young man."

"Yes." Diane sighed and smiled in relief. "When can I see him?"

"He's in the special cardiac care unit right now where he is being monitored." Dr. Porter said. "I can take you back so you can see him for just a minute though. He's in isolation so you'll need to scrub up and wear sterile coverings from head to toe."

"Okay." She nodded as her hands began to shake.

"He's okay?" JC asked as stood, using the wall for balance.

"He looks really good. It's too soon to say anything for sure, but I can tell you that I wish every heart transplant could go as smooth as this one."

"Wow…" Justin said under his breath as he placed his hand on his stomach.

"When will we know for sure if he's okay?" Chris asked from his seat against the wall. He didn't trust his legs enough to stand just yet.

"In about 24 hours we'll be able to start removing his chest tubes and other monitors and we'll see how he does off the vent. Depending on when he wakes up, we might be able to remove his vent sooner."

"He's not awake?" Diane asked softly.

"No, he is not." Dr. Porter shook his head. "We've only just finished the surgery so he will be under anesthesia for a little longer."

"When will he wake up?"

"He will be on heavy medication for tomorrow, we'll start to wean him off of those late tomorrow. I'd like to see him awake no later than Thursday night. He won't be able to talk or really communicate until we take the vent out and that won't be until he's awake and strong enough to breathe on his own." Dr. Porter explained.

"What are the chances that something could happen in the next 24 hours?" Diane asked as her voice wobbled.

"I don't have any statistics, but like I said, the surgery went surprisingly well and he's responded favorably to all of the treatments and tests we did once the new heart was placed in his chest. It looks to me like he'll pull through with flying colors and I wouldn't be surprised if he's off the vent on Thursday. Right now, nothing would surprise me with Lance." Dr. Porter smiled and glanced around at the other boys, "I heard how all of this came about, and it's nothing short of a miracle."

"It sure is a miracle." Diane smiled and ran her fingers through her hair. "Can I… when can I see him?"

"I'll come and get you in about an hour to take you back to see him."

"What about us?" Joey asked.

"I'm sorry, but we can really only allow his mom back there. There's not supposed to be any guests at all, but I understand how mother's can be worried about their babies." Dr. Porter grinned again, "You guys will be able to see him once he's out of isolation."

"Thank you doctor." Diane reached for his hand and squeezed tightly, "Thank you so much for taking care of him."

"You're welcome Ms. Bass." He nodded. "I'm going to go check on him, then I'll have someone come and get you to see him. The rest of you guys can go on home and get some sleep, he's in good hands."

"Thanks." The four boys said in unison as Johnny stood up from his seat in the corner.

Dr. Porter left the room and they all breathed a collective sigh of relief, "I think the doctor was right, you guys need some sleep."

"I want to wait and see how Lance is." Joey shook his head.

"We'll wait for Diane to go back and see him, then I want you all to come back to the hotel with me to get some sleep. I won't have you all getting sick and draining yourselves over this." Johnny slipped into the manager role so easily; it was hard for them to argue.

"He's right boys. You all need to rest. I'll go see Lance and let you know how he is, but then you need to go sleep."

"We can't just leave him here." JC shook his head.

"I'll be here." Diane said. "If anything at all happens I'll call you guys."

"Yeah but - "

"Please don't argue Jace. I know you all love Lance a lot and are just worried, but you won't be doing anyone any good if you've drained yourself to exhaustion." Diane pulled JC in for a hug then worked her way around to the other boys. "You'll be back tomorrow anyway."

"We've got some work to do tomorrow as well, so we'll talk about that in the morning before we head back here." Johnny nodded as he sat back down beside Justin.

"Work? Come on Johnny, we can't - " Chris started to complain.

"You've got a world of fans out there who are going to want to know what's going on. As of tomorrow morning the rumors are going to start and you'll need to make announcements. We'll talk about that later." Johnny explained softly.

They all nodded and knew that no matter how worried they were, there was still a job to get done. Lance would want them to make an announcement as a group to let everyone know that no matter what they'd all stick together and help each other out.

Diane went back to see Lance an hour later, and came back after only a few minutes, "Wow guys, he looks good." She said as she licked her lips. "He just looks like he's sleeping." Her voice wobbled as she shoved the image of Lance looking ashy and cold while being surrounded by machines from her mind to hold a strong front for the guys. "You need to go back to the hotel now though and get some sleep."

"Are you sure he's okay?" JC asked, unwilling to just leave her alone in the hospital.

Diane nodded slowly and took a deep breath, "He's going to be fine. You know he'd be worried about you guys if he were awake, so please go get some sleep and come back tomorrow. I know he'll want to see you as soon as he can."

"She's right guys, come on." Johnny nodded toward the door.

The boys reluctantly and tiredly headed for the door, pausing to hug Diane one more time before they left. The entourage moved slowly down the hall and out to the parking lot where they piled back into their vans and drove back to the hotel without uttering a word. The boys nodded in unison when Johnny told them that they'd all meet up in his room at nine in the morning to talk shop, then they shut themselves into their own rooms and fell asleep as they were instructed.

 

Next...

 

Copyright 2001, Amy Lynn